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OINT OF LAW

A gem of wisdom in the Corona impeachment trial
By: Francis Lim Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:15 am | Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 5 share38 31 At each session since Day 1 of the impeachment trial, important lessons are laid for future generations’ references. Several legal evidentiary terms and principles have been debated upon. Witnesses were asked to be characterized as ordinary or expert witnesses. Even the meaning of authentication of documents has been discussed. Objections to irrelevant, leading, misleading, argumentative and hypothetical questions were likewise raised in the course of the testimony of the witnesses so far presented. We expect more to come—what with the prosecution including on its list of witnesses—without much thought perhaps—more than 100 prosecution witnesses. Indeed, the impeachment trial shows the interplay between the rules of pleading and rules of evidence. More importantly, it demonstrates the real-life interface between procedural rules and the constitutional rights of the individual citizen. Of particular note in the recent past is the legal debate over paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 of the impeachment complaint. These two paragraphs are subsumed under Article II of the impeachment complaint, which charges the Chief Justice of culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust ―when he failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required under Sec. 17, Art. XI of the 1987 Constitution.‖ By way of rider, however, the impeachment complaint included paragraph 2.3, which states that ―[i]t is also reported that some of the properties of Respondent are not included in his declaration of his assets, liabilities, and networth, in violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.‖ Further, the complaint included paragraph 2.4, which alleges that ―[r]espondent is likewise suspected and accused of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits.‖

However. the defense panel forced the issue and moved for a quick ruling. the Senate barred the introduction of any evidence on paragraph 2. They objected to any evidence on paragraphs 2. why did the complainants make paragraphs 2. and the rights of a citizen guaranteed by the Constitution. The ruling Not satisfied with registering a continuing objection as ordinary trial lawyers would have done. In its ruling last week. at the same time hoping that they would be able to smuggle in evidence on alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Chief Justice. they want to have their cake and eat it.4 mere riders to Article II and not separate grounds for impeachment? Why did they not assert the matters mentioned therein as facts? Contrary to what many believe. Gem of wisdom The ruling strikes a balance between the interest of the state in an impeachment case. this is not a case of poor draftsmanship. they protect themselves from perjury charges. .4. the Senate President made it crystal clear that the Senate will allow evidence on this paragraph only if the prosecution will identify with specificity what assets are not included in the SALN.3. But the ploy did not escape the razor-sharp legal minds of the defense panel. too. not as facts. In layman’s language. as the time-tested Justice Cuevas eloquently argued before the impeachment court.3 and 2. The complainants carefully employed the words ―reported. It acknowledges that an impeachment case is not purely a judicial proceeding. the Senate decided to allow the panel to introduce evidence on the matter. It was a deliberate decision.3 and 2.So. What is not validly alleged cannot be proven in court. Although the Senate could have been justified in excluding evidence on paragraph 2. By stating the matters as based on reports and suspicion.‖ ―suspected‖ and ―accused‖ because the Constitution requires that the complaint must be under oath. but a political exercise as well.4 on the ground that these allegations do not satisfy the requirement of pleading for a valid allegation in an impeachment complaint under both the Rules of Court and the Constitution.

a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government. the prosecution public relations machine has been in full gear with no let-up even long before the impeachment trial started. the ruling gives meaning to a person’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial trial.It accommodates the prosecution panel’s plea for flexibility and liberality. . It recognizes the unique circumstances surrounding this particular case. Obviously. this actuation runs afoul of the Chief Justice Corona’s constitutional rights to be presumed innocent and due process of law. Evidently. Kudos to the Senate President and the Senate! The Corona case demonstrates beyond doubt why there is a bill of rights – to protect the individual from the vast powers of the state. without sacrificing the basic rights of the respondent. Second. in the interest of the public. or rest on inference. the ruling is full of wisdom that should merit the admiration of both the bar and the public. the trial outside the courtroom seems to be moving swifter than in the impeachment court. Since Day 1 of the trial. these are not evidence until they are formally admitted by the court. the ruling allows evidence on other properties to the extent that they are not included in the SALN of the Chief Justice. The prosecution cannot request for a blanket subpoena of witnesses and documents (as they initially did by requesting the court to subpoena bank documents without any specificity) in an effort to fish for evidence on what properties are not included in the SALN. To the extent that the ruling protects these constitutionally guaranteed rights without sacrificing the discovery of the truth. As Thomas Jefferson had said. But to protect the constitutional rights of the individual citizen. especially with the full powers of the Presidency stacked up against the Chief Justice. As noted by Senator Judge Gregorio Honasan. and what no just government should refuse. the ruling inextricably requires that the prosecution must specify in detail what properties are not included in the SALN before the Senate will allow evidence thereon. They exhibit their documents on television before they offer them in evidence. It bars a fishing expedition on the part of the prosecution. the prosecution panel has successfully portrayed the Chief Justice as guilty before the public. the ruling will help minimize the portrayal of the Chief Justice as guilty in the bar of public opinion. indeed. In law. Observably. Why do I say so? First.

whether acting as impeachment court or legislative body. And what was the extent of the power of the Senate to which they were elected? Their power was only coequal with those of the executive department and the judicial department. How explain the claim of some senators now that their power while acting as impeachment judge has suddenly skyrocketed to a level higher than that of the Supreme Court? The answer to this question is a mystery to me. is that the powers being exercised during the impeachment trial are powers given to the Senate originally elected. where did it come from? From Mars? The fact. J. however. If you will look at the constitutional provisions on impeachment. February 13th. . The contention that the Senate judging the impeachment trial now is superior to the Supreme Court rests on the assumption that the Senate as impeachment judge is different from the Senate originally elected.com. The Senate judging the current trial was created by Article VI and not by Article XI. Joaquin G. 2012 30 share325 287 Whence are the senators currently judging the impeachment trial coming from? They are the same senators who were elected to the Senate two or four years ago. All must bow to the Constitution. Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:51 am | Monday. Bernas S. They are non-legislative powers which are dormant until the Senate is called to be judge in an impeachment trial. In other words. (The author is a law professor at the Ateneo Law School. protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing. He can be contacted through francis.lim@gmail.To use the words of the Great Communicator. The Senate.) Sounding Board Who has superior power? By: Fr. If there must be talk of superiority among the three departments.‖ period. If this is not the Senate originally elected. you will not find a reference to a ―Senate court‖ or a ―Senate jury.ed. there is only one Senate which occasionally acts as impeachment court in the same manner that there is only one Supreme Court which occasionally acts as Presidential Electoral Tribunal. only the Constitution is superior.‖ The only thing you will find is ―Senate. is the same Senate that is coequal with and not superior to the other departments. former US President Ronald Reagan.

The Legislature enacts the laws. . Have we begun to see this happening? The approach. This does not mean superiority of the Court over the other departments. the Supreme Court came in to determine that fractions should be ignored in the allocation of members even if ignoring fractions would result in less than 12 senator-members of the commission. All it means is that the Constitution has placed in the Supreme Court the power to determine with finality the meaning of the law. Again. in the participation of the Senate in the formation of the Commission on Appointments where membership is determined by the Senate on the basis of proportional representation of the various political parties in the Senate. the Executive implements them. The approach can also be by trying to shame the opponent to submission. superiority over the law. Worse yet. It means the superiority of the Constitution. in the Electoral Tribunal cases. yes. if both of them conspire to claim. His vote has only the same weight as the vote of any of the other justices.‖ Does the exclusivity of the power of the House of Representatives rule out any role for the Supreme Court? We already saw that in the Davide impeachment case and the Gutierrez case the Supreme Court came in to resolve matters of interpretation of the law on impeachment. might not be as blatant as that. ―The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment. but control. perhaps.Does the fact that the Constitution makes the Senate ―the sole judge of all impeachment cases‖ make it superior to the Supreme Court in everything relating to impeachment? Perhaps we can find an answer to this question by looking at the jurisprudence on the relation of the Supreme Court to other agencies of the government. There are implications in some of the articles of impeachment that the Chief Justice has control over the direction of the other members of the Court. This is the law until our constitutional system is revised by the people and not by a few senators led by the President. The President has the power of control over the entire executive department. How powerful is the Chief Justice? Another issue which has come up is the extent of the power of the Chief Justice over the other members of the Court.‖ the Supreme Court has come in to determine whether there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the tribunal because the power to make such judgment has been given to the Supreme Court. What all this means is that the Supreme Court can come in when needed to determine the meaning of the law. This means that the President can substitute his judgment for the judgment of any executive officer. however. the Judiciary resolves legal controversies by the application of law of whose final meaning the Supreme Court is judge. Similarly. no. in word or deed. For instance the Constitution also says. where the Constitution says that the Electoral Tribunal shall be the ―sole judge of all election contests. Influence. The Chief Justice has no such power. It is a dangerous matter when either the Legislature or the Executive believe that they are superior to the law. A fundamental principle of our constitutional system is separation of powers.